An argument has emerged at the Church of the Assumption in Newcastle over their permitting the use of a parish hall for the Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard and his constituency clinic. One parishioner is quoted by the Belfast Telegraph (20/2/18) as saying that he is ‘…appalled at the decision of the Church authorities to allow, without any form of consultation, the use of parish property for party political purposes’, the parishioner goes on to say that he is ‘…hurt and disillusioned that a political party which is fully committed to the introduction of abortion on demand, on both parts of the island of Ireland, is to be allowed a potential propaganda platform for those views in a Catholic-owned and run facility’. A spokesperson for the Diocese of Down and Connor not only confirmed that Sinn Fein will be using the room in the parish hall but also stated that such hiring of rooms are ‘…under the understanding [that] the business conducted within the property is in alignment with the ethos of the parish community’. Rev Canon Ian Ellis of nearby St John’s Church of Ireland in Newcastle indicated that in their case such matters would go to the vestry to discuss, but that he thinks that it would be very unlikely that Sinn Fein would obtain the use of their facilities.
Surely it is somewhat inconsistent that an MP representing a party whose leader at their Ard Fheis in November 2017 called for the repeal of the 8th amendment in the South, who are vocally pro-abortion, who made the introduction of same sex marriage in the North a red line issue during the recent talks to restore devolution, and whose searing anti-Catholic rhetoric was applauded at their recent Ard Fheis should be allowed the use of a parish hall the conditions of which are that ‘…the business conducted within the property be in alignment with the ethos of the parish community’. Either Mr Hazzard has moved significantly away from the party political outlook of Sinn Fein in this case and aligned himself with the Catholic ethos of the community (in which case he should state this publicly) or the Church of the Assumption in Newcastle has overlooked the inconsistency between Mr Hazzard’s political views and their own Catholic ethos. We hope this matter is resolved soon and not repeated in other Catholic parishes across Northern Ireland.
Dr Gaven Kerr
Iona Institute NI